“I felt, what gives me the right to be here?… There’s a sense of being thrown into the deep end of the pool and needing to learn to swim. But I wasn’t just questioning whether I could survive. In a fundamental way, I was asking, ‘Am I a swimmer?'”William Somerville (PhD) on the topic of imposter syndrome
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy and failure. People dealing with imposter syndrome usually believe themselves to be undeserving of success and that their victories are the result of luck instead of hard work or talent. According to Forbes, 70% of us have or will deal with these feelings at some point in our lives, with some demographics even reaching 97%. While imposter syndrome is typically felt by people new to an industry, workplace, position, or group, oftentimes high achievers, hard workers, and perfectionists are the ones who experience it the most. Numerous public figures and industry leaders have come forward over the years to discuss their past or current battles with it. Some notable examples include:
- Serena Williams
- Tom Hanks
- Michelle Obama
- Howard Schultz
- Lady Gaga
How to deal with imposter syndrome
Now that we’ve gone through the ins and outs of imposter syndrome, here are our top tips to manage it.
1. Trust the process
As much as we might try to avoid it, failure is a natural part of life. When acclaimed author, Steven King, approached publishers with his fourth novel, Carrie, he was rejected 30 times. Now it’s one of the most acclaimed horror novels in history and it jumpstarted his thriving career. Like climbing a mountain, every journey to success will have peaks and valleys, ups and downs. It’s just a matter of pushing through the challenging times to climb to the next peak. If you’re in a management position, it’s important to foster a workplace culture where it is safe for your employees to fail. See here for our tips on how to do this.
2. Take a break from social media
I’m going to let you in on a little secret… not everything posted on social media is true or real. In reality, people’s social media profiles are usually just a highlight reel of their successes. What you don’t see are the challenges, failures, and hard times they experience. This makes social media a large trigger for imposter syndrome when it’s taken at face value, as it sets an unrealistic expectation for what success looks like. If you feel imposter syndrome creeping in, that’s your sign to log off and recharge.
3. Focus on your successes
Comparing yourself to others is the quickest way to spiral into the negativity loop of imposter syndrome. The problem is that it’s difficult to not do it. We’re all guilty of it from time to time, however, what we often forget is that there’s no uniform timeline for success and that everyone’s version of success is different. Success is relevant to your situation, abilities, and capabilities, meaning that when you compare yourself to others you’re comparing yourself to their unique standards and definitions of success. The moral of the story? Just focus on yourself and on pursuing continuous improvement. It sounds cliché, but only you can do you.
4. Talk with a friend
There’s a saying that a problem shared is a problem halved. This couldn’t be truer in the case of imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is tricky to manage alone, as by nature it is an internalised problem caused by your inner dialogue about yourself. As such, it can be extremely valuable to talk with someone about these feelings. A trusted friend, co-worker, or mentor may be able to help put things into perspective by providing feedback, reassurance, or objective insight.
We’re all a work in progress, so be kind to yourself.